I actually wrote this a few months ago in spring and completely forgot about it. I remembered when I cycled this route earlier this week..
6pm Sunday evening. The sun is slowly fading in the sky but the warmth of the day lingers in the evening air. Time for a quick spin on the bike.
I push off, finding the familiar snap of the cleats and letting my body remember the feel of the bike. Within minutes I’ve left the houses behind and I’m out onto the common. I loosen my grip and cross the cattle grid, the bike rattling in protest. I’ll head to the monument, tracing a 10 mile circuit that I discovered last year.
I wind through the lanes, taking my time. This is my time to think. And also not to think. Sometimes I just pedal and listen and look and feel the breeze.
The lanes narrow. I know the twists and turns, know when to step on the pedals to prepare for a slight hill, listening out for other road users. I won’t see any cars. I’ve seen wildlife here before – sometimes a rabbit, or maybe a pheasant – but tonight the lanes are mine. People think the countryside is quiet. I think it is loud. The birds are loud.
There is no one to match my pace, no one to tell me to go faster. I dawdle, as much as it possible with my feet restrained in the cleats, coasting where I can to catch glimpses of the fields through the hedge. I look at the farms, look at the detached houses with spacious gardens, and the lovingly restored period cottages, wondering if I might be lucky enough to live in such a dwelling one day. Clad in my fluorescent lycra, I feel like an intruder.
Another cattle grid jars my body and the climb to the monument starts. The hill is gradual at first, teasing my muscles and my memory of the ascent. I pass a cottage perched on the hillside and enter the trees, the canopy stretching to meet overhead. The incline is increasing in earnest but I feel good. For a few seconds I allow myself to think that maybe – just maybe – I haven’t lost as much fitness over the winter as I thought.
The road ahead stretches up into a grey wall. I try not to look. I forget this section every time.
I lean forwards and push into the hill, pulling on the handle bars. My legs burn but I try to keep the pace steady. I’m out of the saddle. 30 metres, 20 metres more, every bend in the road a mini milestone. I hear the swoosh of a car on the main road ahead. The monument is close.
At the top of the hill, the Somerset Monument stands, silent and imposing, commanding it’s view of the evening light over the undulating hills beneath.
Maybe proper cyclists don’t stop. But there’s no one here to complain that I’m wasting time taking photos. I’ve earned it. The view is mine.